The Stanley Cup Playoffs can create the most unlikely of heroes.
So too, it seems, can the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
, called up as cover for an injury ravaged roster that currently has six forwards on the injured reserve list, has made for the unlikeliest of crusaders as the Calgary Flames
set their sights on a postseason berth.
On an emergency recall from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, Baertschi has punctuated his stay by scoring three goals in four games, including the opening goal just 17 seconds in against the Phoenix Coyotes
, pacing the Flames to a 4-1 victory -- their fifth in a row.
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"It's been special," Baertschi said. "I've dreamed of and had no idea that it actually could happen with them calling me up. We keep winning so I'm really happy about that. I wasn't really thinking 'I'm going to get points as soon as I'm up there'. It's just go out there and make sure you don't make mistakes. It worked out well. Sometimes it just happens like that and I'm happy about it."
If Baertschi's status as a hero in Calgary's winning streak needed validation, 19,289 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome answered with chants of 'Bar-chee!' 'Bar-chee!' 'Bar-chee!' to close out their win Thursday.
"I heard that," Baertschi said. "It was exciting. It's something you dream of as a little kid. You come here and just play three games at home and then you hear the whole crowd going crazy. That's special."
The boisterous crowd wasn't missed by Matt Stajan
, who teased the 19-year-old that the crowd was actually chanting 'Sar-chie' in honor of defenseman Cory Sarich
"I don't know, were they chanting Baertschi at the end? We were telling Sarch they were chanting 'Sarchie' at the end because he played so well."
All joking aside, Stajan has been impressed with the play of Baertschi -- given the circumstance.
"Baertschi's been awesome," Stajan said. "The credit he's getting from the fans, even in this room, guys are so happy for him. He's done a great job and it's not like this is the start of the year and he's come. This is crunch time. This is playoff hockey and he's come right in and been a spark for us let alone scoring almost every game.
"Good for him, he's a great kid."
Naturally, the rookie has caught the praise of his coach, too.
"That's huge, I think, for any player — not just a young player — any time you can contribute that way," Brent Sutter
said, "Any time any type of player can come in and gain momentum like he did from game to game, it's a huge confidence booster and it shows, again, that he's ready for this level.
But Baertschi's contributions to the Flames can dry up in an instant.
His stay isn't permanent and could come to an end at any moment, meaning Friday's 'Battle of Alberta' tilt against the Edmonton Oilers
could be the last time Flames fans see Baertschi this season.
"It's something you dream of as a little kid. You come here and just play three games at home and then you hear the whole crowd going crazy. That's special."
-- Flames' forward Sven Baertschi
Under the agreement between the Canadian Hockey League, which oversees that country's junior hockey programs, and the NHL, Baertschi isn't eligible to remain with Calgary on a full-time basis. In fact, the next player to return off the inured reserve list will send him back to the Winterhawks.
With forwards Lee Stempniak
and Lance Bouma
nearing return, Baertschi's days in the National Hockey League are certainly numbered.
Meaning the immediate future of the Flames first-round pick in 2011 is uncertain – even to him.
"I have no idea," Baertschi said. I'm just taking it day by day. It's their decision. As soon as guys come back I have to leave."
The only way he'll be eligible to return is if his powerhouse Portland squad is upset in the WHL playoffs and the Flames remain active in the postseason.
Failing that, the next time Flames fans will have the opportunity to chant Baertschi's name will be next season, potentially with a 'new and improved' version of the Swiss sensation.
"There are still some things I need to learn," he said. "My goal is always to play on a different level. My goal is to keep up and start to get better and start to improve every single day. It's the same now. Because I scored three goals I'm not going to sit back and that is it for this year and next year I'm coming in the same thing again."
Until then, the Flames may need to find themselves another hero.